The Defence Ministry has decided to seek clarification from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) about whether the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had prevented it from challenging the quashing of charge sheets in the Bofors case by the Delhi High Court in 2005.
In a letter to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Nishikant Dubey, Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre has said he has referred the matter to "concerned agencies" for clarification so the information could be provided to him.
Dubey had raised the Bofors issue in the Monsoon Session of Parliament and claimed the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) and the Law Ministry under UPA had not allowed CBI to go in appeal against the High Court judgement.
The BJP leader had also spoken about de-freezing of an account in London related to the Bofors deal, resulting in withdrawal of money the day the judgement was pronounced.
The CBI had on January 22, 1990 registered an FIR for alleged criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery under the Indial Penal Code and sections of Prevention of Corruption Act against Martin Ardbo, the then President of AB Bofors, alleged middleman Win Chadda and Hinduja brothers.
The CBI had alleged that certain public servants and private persons in India and abroad had entered into a criminal conspiracy for the supply of Howitzer artillery guns and Rs 64 crore were paid in kickbacks to clinch the deal.
The first charge sheet was filed on October 22, 1999 against Chadda, Ottavio Quattrocchi, an Italian businessman who allegedly acted as conduit for payment of kickbacks, the then Defence Secretary S K Bhatnagar, Ardbo and the Bofors company. A supplementary charge sheet against the UK based Hinduja brothers was filed on October 9, 2000.
A special CBI court in Delhi had on March 4, 2011 discharged Quattrocchi, considered close to the family of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, from the case, saying the country cannot afford to spend hard-earned money on his extradition which had already cost Rs 250 crore.
Quattrocchi, who fled from here on July 29-30, 1993, never appeared before any court in India to face prosecution. He died on July 13, 2013. The other accused who died are Bhatnagar, Chadda and Ardbo.
The Delhi High Court had in February 2005 quashed the charges against three Hinduja brothers under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
It also said there was no evidence to back the allegation that Hinduja brothers had bribed Rajiv Gandhi and Bhatnagar to clinch the deal.
The CBI had recently told a parliamentary panel that it may seek reopening of the case for futher investigation. The investigating agency had also reportedly said it is prepared to back the Special Leave Petition (SLP) pending in the apex court filed by advocate and BJP leader Ajay Agrawal.
Agrawal has now moved an application seeking early hearing of the politically sensitive case, which had significantly contributed to the fall of the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1989.